The Kenwood Press
: 03/15/2012

Forum Oakmont

Jim Kaiser: A candid talk with the president of the Oakmont Village Association

Yvonne Frauenfelder

As head of the board of directors of the OVA, he projects a stern demeanor during the monthly meetings, not given to superfluous talk or conversation. He is direct and to-the-point, requesting facts and figures of petitioners pleading their causes, of residents voicing complaints and/or committee chairs making presentations.

During our interview, I found him to be most amiable and expansive, readily answering the questions put to him. It has been an interesting year for Jim Kaiser, one filled with responsibilities taken very seriously, and day after day devoted to the task at hand: to ensure an Oakmont that is operating efficiently, effectively and dependably. Should you receive a midnight email, you can rest assured that the president is putting in long and dedicated hours for the benefit of our residents.

With an impressive record of achievements, he nonetheless had to deal with challenges that might belie the placid nature of our retirement village. One of the contentions centers on the choice of software company hired last summer. Other discussions deal with the noon closing of the OVA offices; followed by a seemingly revolving door of maintenance managers; the long wait for the West Recreation Center locker rooms to be rehabilitated; questions surrounding the paying down and refinancing of the Central Activity Center; the closing of the access path through the Bensen property into Annadel, and finally, the partial abrogation of medical insurance for employee dependents.

A former project manager in the nuclear business for General Electric, with broad experience in the recognition of problems and attendant skills leading to their resolution, Kaiser addresses these and other concerns with well-reasoned arguments and persuasive presidential messages, but doubts tend to linger on the part of a small minority in our community. Considering, however, that we have a population of 4,500, it should not come as a surprise that occasionally a cadre of “activists” question decisions made by the Board and the administration.

Next year, Oakmont will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and OVA’s president perceives Oakmont to have arrived at a crossroads. Foremost in his mind lies a demographic shift, with boomers, at an increasing rate, discovering our charming village. Integrating them into a mostly homogenous society requires finesse and diplomacy. To serve the needs of both septuagenarians and the “50-somethings” calls for imaginative thinking and active engagement.

Kaiser, the leading proponent of the successful reorganization of committees, and a strong believer in the efficacy and cost effective means of Oakmont’s unique volunteer structure, envisions the new arrivals, endowed with extensive knowledge of technology and business, to become invaluable members, contributing novel thoughts and imaginative proposals to favor our small society.

It is in committees, mostly, that projects are conceived, plans developed and research undertaken, augmented by public input, since the meetings are open to all residents. While the Board makes the final decisions, three questions are usually asked: “How much does it cost? Are the finances available? And have three bids been obtained?” Our president is of the conviction that when responsibilities are delegated to people, you have to grant them, in equal measure, authority to fulfill their mandates.

Digitalization of Oakmont’s processes are high on Jim’s list of priorities and he desires to bring our community into the 21st century. He is pleased with the advances that technology has made possible within the administration’s environment, and on his wish list are iPads for every director to facilitate communication and to avoid the avalanche of paper that still accompanies each activity. As for Oakmont proper, the whole zone should be dedicated to wi-fi communication.

Looking to the future, Jim Kaiser foresees a closer relationship with the Golf Club, preparing for the day when the OVA and the OGC might be compelled to work together in solid collaboration. He smiles when he cites the famous links at St. Andrews in Scotland, that close down every Sunday for the town’s people to take advantage of the greens, flying kites, celebrating birthdays and holding picnics. He wants places for the hikers, the birders and the anglers, and he is looking forward to the OGC water storage pond to be turned into a fisherman’s delight.

These visions go hand in hand with the more prosaic efforts such as hiring a contractor to check out every nook and cranny of our aging and wood-based infrastructure for dry rot. Vacant houses – due to either death or foreclosure – and whose maintenance is lacking, pose yet another concern. OVA cannot simply step in and mow down the weeds. The responsibility falls on lending institutions, or the city of Santa Rosa. In either case a laborious issue to clear up.

For all of us who take it for granted that Oakmont delivers on our expectations, it is proper to devote a moment of gratitude to those who work tirelessly trying to fulfill them, namely the Board, the committees, the administrator and her staff, and in this case, most especially, to the number one volunteer, Jim Kaiser, who, by all accounts, ranks among the hardest working presidents in the long history of the Oakmont Village Association.